, Volume 40, Issue 5, pp 697-712
Date: 17 Nov 2012

The Practical Use of Methotrexate in Psoriasis

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Summary

Psoriasis is an inflammatory disease of the skin associated with increased epidermal proliferation. The aetiology of the disease is unknown, but there seems to be a genetic predisposition.

The goal of therapy in the treatment of psoriasis is to decrease the rate of epidermal proliferation and the underlying inflammation. Topical application of steroids and coal tar are the therapies of choice; however, for those patients with severe recalcitrant psoriasis who have failed conventional topical therapy methotrexate is an established alternative.

The use of methotrexate in psoriasis is limited by its toxicity, and proper patient selection and close monitoring are essential in achieving good clinical response. The dosage used should be the lowest that will maintain the patient in comfort, not necessarily that which produces total resolution. Caution should be exercised when other agents are used concurrently with methotrexate, and possible drug interactions should be identified as these may influence the effectiveness and toxicity of methotrexate therapy.

The common side effects associated with the use of methotrexate in psoriasis include bone marrow suppression, gastrointestinal symptoms and hepatotoxicity. Liver damage is a major concern in long term methotrexate therapy and thus liver biopsies are warranted to monitor any pathological changes. The drug is a known teratogen and should be avoided in pregnant patients. Women of childbearing age should use reliable contraception during therapy.

Patients should be made aware of the signs and symptoms of methotrexate toxicity and inform their physicians promptly as most adverse effects can be ameliorated with appropriate dosage adjustment. Methotrexate will continue to play a major role in the treatment of psoriasis and it is thus important that it be used safely.